Hello Barbie: Best Friend or Stalker?

By Sara Brown

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this product demo for Hello Barbie -- Mattel’s latest entry into the Internet of Things. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be surprised to learn that this new product is raising concerns regarding privacy, particularly when it comes to protecting our children.

As a professional marketer, I can certainly understand Mattel’s desire to learn as much as possible about their target audience. However, as a parent, I’m a little worried. 

Children are already pretty easy to market to, after all -- and I’m not sure I have either the mental fortitude, or the cash flow to deal with more effective marketing to my child. More importantly, though, is the question of how much privacy we are willing to sacrifice for the promised benefits of an “intelligent” doll. 

I was a bit of a tomboy growing up. I had Barbie dolls, but my preferred game involved Ken’s poorly affixed head. If Ken could communicate back then, he would have been sending Mattel frequent 9-1-1 calls for medical assistance after I wedged my thumbs under his chin and popped his head out the window for my friend in the yard to catch (Should I be relating this story? Hmm.). Perhaps his pleas would have sparked a new era in product innovation for poor Ken dolls.

There is always a tradeoff between privacy or security and functionality -- but is a talking Barbie the killer app that will drive parents to offer up their little girls to corporate stalkers? For the sake of our future, I certainly hope not. Besides, if Hello Barbie eventually makes its way to that ultimate Barbie graveyard (also known as the bathtub), we may discover even more pressing child safety concerns.